Teaching Pride Month in Classrooms
By Kate Humphrey
What Is Pride?
June is LGBTQ+ Pride Month, dedicated to celebrating and honoring LGBTQ+ lives. Since the brave actions of Marsha P. Johnson that sparked the Stonewall Riots in 1969 and the gay rights movement in the United States, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and allies, have come together to uplift LGBTQ+ voices and work to achieve equal civil rights.
Pride is celebrated with parties, picnics, workshops, educational events, and, possibly most famously, New York City’s Pride March that draws in millions of supporters each year and had its fiftieth anniversary in 2019. Pride is a worldwide celebration of self-affirmation, tolerance, respect, increased visibility, and the acknowledgment of the decades-long fight for equality under the law. Teaching about Pride and LBGTQ+ history is important as it makes each student feel safe, welcome, and, hopefully, understood.
To get started, below is a short list of people who have made large contributions to LBGTQ+ rights and visibility.
Along with Marsha P. Johnson, Silvia Rivera was instrumental in instigating the gay rights movement after the Stonewall Riots and served as a lifelong activist for transgender rights. Together, they founded S.T.A.R, a now-defunct organization that provided homeless LGBTQ+ youths with housing in lower Manhattan.
Edith Windsor, in the landmark 2013 Supreme Court Case, United States v. Windsor, challenged the ‘Defense of Marriage’ act (DOMA) that had defined marriage as the union between one man and one woman. After the death of her long-time partner, Thea Spyer, Winsor sued the federal government to legally recognize their union, and grant her spousal privileges. Declaring DOMA as unconstitutional was a watershed moment in legalizing gay marriage.
Harvey Milk was an American politician and the first openly gay elected official in California. During the 1970s, when hostility and discrimination towards members of the LBGTQ+ community were rampant, Milk was unapologetically himself and gave others hope. Even after his assassination, Milk served as a beacon of self-acceptance.
WWII veteran Christine Jorgensen is widely known as the first transgender American to undergo sex reassignment surgery. In the 1950s, Jorgensen became a near-celebrity for her groundbreaking surgery. Although she was met with discrimination and backlash, Jorgensen also received many letters from similar individuals asking her for help and guidance, and she gave lectures throughout the U.S. on gender identity. Jorgensen left her mark by increasing the public’s knowledge of transgender individuals.
What Is Next?
Whether during Pride Month or throughout the year, continue exploring the best ways to incorporate a variety of identities into the curriculum. A great starting point to ensuring that each student feels welcomed is to place safe zone stickers in the classrooms. There are also a plethora of books for students to read such as Sophie Beer’s Love Makes A Family, I Am Jazz by Jazz Jennings and many more, which can be found here and here. Further resources for students and teachers alike can be found through Share My Lesson’s activities, Pride Foundation, the Anti-Defamation League, NYC Pride, and GLSEN.
Happy Pride Month!